Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls said this week at a forum in Washington that the increase in illegal immigration puts a focus on healthcare and nonprofit organizations that help migrants in their city, and he fears the situation will only get worse.
“Right now our border patrol agents and nonprofits are doing an incredible job keeping Yuma safe,” Nicholls said Wednesday at a border roundtable hosted by Republican senators.
“As this number (of migrants) continues to increase, it will exceed their capabilities,” he said. “From that perspective, we’re really concerned about sustaining our health care system, our not-for-profit system, and even our economy. “
His comments come as apprehensions of immigrants on the southern border reached their highest level in decades, with more than 1.5 million arrests in the first 11 months of fiscal 2021. It is the highest level since at least 2000, and higher than the previous two exercises combined.
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But immigration advocates say those numbers can be misleading, as they may represent a migrant who is arrested multiple times at the border and turned away. They also argued that nonprofits were stressed by the pandemic before the number of immigrants began to rise in the last year of the Trump administration.
Apprehensions measure events, not individuals, said Jessica Bolter, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, “therefore,“ we cannot use apprehension figures to represent the total number of different unique migrants arriving at the border. “.
Bolter said “repeat crossing rates have skyrocketed in 2021” and border patrol officers are not stopping all migrants who attempt to pass. For this reason, she said that does not mean “necessarily that the number of individuals captured at the border was the highest on record, nor does it mean that the number of individuals released in the United States was. highest ever recorded “.
Whether or not it was the highest on record, speakers at Wednesday’s event blamed “the unprecedented increase in illegal crossings on our southern border” at the feet of President Joe Biden. No wonder since many of the event attendees were GOP lawmakers or former members of the Trump administration.
Among some of his first acts after taking office this year, Biden called for a halt to construction of the border wall, a signature of the Trump administration. He also ended migrant protection protocols, the so-called “stay in Mexico” policy that allowed border officials to force asylum-seeking migrants to return to Mexico and wait there for their hearing date.
Critics said this policy has led to unsanitary and dangerous makeshift camps on the Mexican side of the border and has also led to an increase in crossing attempts, as noted by Bolter. In August, the Supreme Court ordered Biden to restore the retention policy in Mexico, which the administration said it was working on.
Nicholls said he wished Biden didn’t stop Trump-era policies in the first place, policies that he said “really had a positive impact on the flow” of migrants. And he criticized the administration for not having a plan to deal with the number of illegal immigrants who will be arriving.
“You can’t make such a big change without some sort of preparation on what that impact will be,” Nicholls said, adding that finding a way to deal with the migrants who are here is the biggest thing to do. .
But Jose Patiño said the problem of managing migrants began long before the Biden administration. He said the problem started under former President Barack Obama and continued under President Donald Trump.
“The way the administration and government conduct and treat immigrants doesn’t help, it makes things worse for nonprofits and local communities,” said Patiño, director of education and external affairs at Aliento.
He said the lack of preparedness is at least in part responsible for the region’s nonprofits working with migrants being exhausted as they scramble to work with the growing number of people in need of help. aid.
“For the past two years and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits have been exhausted, overworked and overworked,” Patiño said.
“Yuma is not equipped properly, they don’t have enough nonprofits or churches or even government resources,” he said. “Then it becomes a heavy burden for them, especially since the government only drops them (the immigrants) and they don’t have the services to support the migrants. “
But Bolter said an influx of migrants can bring challenges, so it’s not that bad.
“Although some public resources may be strained in areas with a high concentration of unauthorized immigrants, these immigrants will also contribute to local economies and communities,” she said.
“It’s important to note that part of the reason these migrants arrive is because there is a significant demand for labor in the United States and these migrants end up coming and contributing to the US economy, ”Bolter said.